The Robert Woodruff Photograph Collection (1900s-1970s) consists of ninety-seven black-and-white photographs of locations and events in Clark County, Nevada. Locations include Las Vegas, Henderson, and Searchlight, Nevada, as well as the Hoover Dam. The majority of the images were taken between 1934 and 1962.
Finding Aid PDF
Scope and Contents Note
The Robert Woodruff Photograph Collection (1900s-1970s) consists of ninety-seven black-and-white photographs of locations and events in Clark County, Nevada. Locations include Las Vegas, Henderson, and Searchlight, Nevada, as well as the Hoover Dam. The majority of the images were taken between 1934 and 1962. Events captured in the photographs include the Henderson Industrial Days parades in 1956, 1961, and 1962, and a visit to Las Vegas from Postmaster General Jim Farley in his role as Franklin D. Roosevelt's campaign manager. Other images show construction views of the Hoover Dam, the Las Vegas Courthouse, and various early commercial buildings and casinos.
Collection is open for research.
Materials in this collection may be protected by copyrights and other rights. See Reproductions and Use on the UNLV Special Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permissions to publish. According to the deed of gift between UNLV Special Collections and Archives and the collection donor, permission to publish photographs must be given by Kay W. Bigglestone until her death.
Materials are arranged by location and topic.
Biographical / Historical Note
Robert Woodruff (1914-1992) was born in Akron, Ohio to Althea Rowland and Clarence Merle Woodruff. He moved from Akron to Oberlin, Ohio with his family in 1923, and attended Oberlin College in the 1930s where he played football, ran track, and worked as the yearbook photographer. Woodruff first visited Nevada during his summer vacations, staying with his sister, Eleanor, and her husband, Robert Hiller, in Boulder City. During these summers, Woodruff worked as Hiller's assistant in the X-ray lab of Babcock and Wilcox, the company in charge of manufacturing and installing the Hoover Dam's penstock system water pipes.
After graduating from Oberlin College in 1937, Woodruff moved to Las Vegas, Nevada where he worked for the City Recreation Department as the Assistant Recreation Director of Las Vegas. He spent his time managing the Municipal Plunge (later renamed the Mermaid Pool) where he met Mabel Koehler, whom he married on August 11, 1938 and had four children with: Kay Althea, Ann Elizabeth, Cynthia Merle, and Pete Worthing Woodruff. In 1938, Woodruff took a new job as a guide for Riddle Yellow Cab and Scenic Tours Company. The following year, Woodruff and Mabel started a free, weekly mimeograph newsletter, the Town Crier, that contained editorials, political analysis, and poetry. In the spring of 1944, the military drafted Woodruff into the Army Signal Corps and subsequently sent him to Fort Shafter, Hawaii where he worked as a cryptographer for the remainder of World War II.
In 1947, Woodruff started working for Sears, Roebuck and Company as the head of the photography department. By 1949, he purchased a small photography store in Henderson and renamed it Woodruff’s Basic Photo after the Henderson Basic Magnesium plant. Basic Photo provided regular services such as selling photo supplies and developing film, and Woodruff established himself as a portrait, wedding, and industrial photographer. He also contributed photographs to community services such as the police and fire departments and news outlets including the
While living in Henderson and Las Vegas, Woodruff participated in the community as an occasional preacher at the Henderson Community Church, volunteered at St. Rose de Lima Hospital, sponsored youth bowling leagues, worked for the Chamber of Commerce, became a member of the Lions and Rotary clubs, and served as the scout leader for Boy Scout troop 65.
In 1973, Woodruff sold Basic Photo to Robert Shiles and moved to Sedona, Arizona with Mabel in 1974. Woodruff worked part-time at Rollie's Camera Shop and continued his interest in community service by working with the Junior Chamber of Commerce, becoming an elected official, maintaining an active role in the Rotary Club, and being appointed to the Sedona Fire Board and Board of the Sedona Racquet Club.
Robert Woodruff died in Sedona, Arizona in December 1992.
"Photographer dies; founded lab at Sears."
Robert Woodruff Photograph Collection, 1900s-1970s. PH-00340. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.
Materials were donated in 2001 by Kay Woodruff Bigglestone; accession number 2002-025.
Materials were processed and inventoried by Special Collections staff in 2002. In 2019, as part of an archival backlog elimination project, Melise Leech wrote the finding aid and entered the data into ArchivesSpace.